Russia’s losses in Ukraine include many elite troops that take years and millions of dollars to train, BBC investigation finds
Mia Jankowicz – April 12, 2022
- A BBC investigation found that the Russian army has lost numerous elite troops in Ukraine.
- Some officers lost take over a decade, and between thousands and millions of dollars to train.
- Estimates of Russian troop losses vary. Around 20% of those identified by the BBC were officers.
Russia has lost some of its most specialized and costly troops in its invasion of Ukraine, according to a BBC investigation.
Of the 1,083 Russian fighters identified by the BBC ‘s Russian-language operation, around a fifth — 217 — were officers ranking from junior lieutenant to general, the network said.
The higher-ranking losses include 10 colonels, 20 lieutenant colonels, 31 majors and 155 junior officers, the BBC reported. To illustrate the cost to Russia, it said:
- An infantry lieutenant costs $10,000 to train, over a five-year period.
- Other officers can cost up to $60,000 each to train.
- A top fighter pilot can cost up to $14 million to train over a period of 14 years.
Figures like these suggest that even Russia’s best troops are being killed in Ukraine, not just low-ranking soldiers who are easier to muster.
The BBC can track only a minority of troops killed in Russia. The network previously reported that Russia is suppressing news of casualties in the country, and defense officials give only sporadic updates. Western intelligence sources have said the true loses are much higher.
Members of elite units have also been killed, the BBC investigation found: 15 men from the special forces of the GRU intelligence agency and 10 special-forces troops of Rosgvardia, the Russian national guard.
It also noted that three of those killed had earned maroon berets marking them out as Russia’s most elite troops.
The BBC said that officers and elite fighters may be over-represented in its sample because their elevated status means their bodies are retrieved more urgently and their lives celebrated more widely.
Ukraine has accused Russia of abandoning the bodies of its killed soldiers, refusing to accept them back even when prompted.
Eyewitnesses also told Radio Free Europe in mid-March that corpses and injured soldiers were being transported via Russian ally Belarus in an effort to disguise the death toll.
As of early April, 18 commanders and generals have been reported killed in action, as Insider’s Alia Shoaib reported. The Kremlin has only officially confirmed the death of Maj. Gen. Andrei Sukhovetsky, in what was considered a major blow to troop morale.
As Insider’s Chris Woody reported on March 21, senior Russian officers tend to be more directly involved in combat than their US or NATO counterparts, exposing them to more danger.